Mathis: Experience is ‘a calling’

Most school administrators hope life leads them to a major institution such as The University of Michigan or Penn State.

For FAMU’s Director of the Office of Student Union and Activities, who’s been there and back, something led her down a slightly different path.

“This was always a calling for me. I knew I wanted to work at an HBCU, where I could work with students that I could relate to,” said Alice Mathis, who’s been at FAMU for slightly more than a year.

Born in Savannah, Ga., but raised in New Jersey, her career has taken her throughout the country. She’s made stops in New York, Chicago, Pennsylvania and Iowa.

Mathis spent six years as the Director of Student Life for Iowa State University. While it was the big league job many dream about, it wasn’t enough for Mathis.

“I felt like I needed to do something different. I was ready for different challenges and opportunities,” she said.

So she went on the hunt, looking for a school where she could really make a difference.

That need to make a difference led her to the Hill, the last place she expected to end up.

“I never thought I would live in the South.”

But now that she’s at FAMU, there’s work to be done.

“First off, there are some infrastructure things that need to be in place. We should be much further ahead than we are,” Mathis said.

She said campus organizations should be able to request facilities, and students should be able to view a master calendar of events online.

Over 200 clubs go through the OSUA, and part of Mathis’ vision for the office is to provide information that is accurate, concise and complete. She also said the office needs to have the resources to do so.

“I’ve been exposed to so much, and resources we could and should have available to us at FAMU are not here,” Mathis said.

“My goal is to move us to the next level.”

Part of that move is change. Mathis is working on reorganizing the OSUA with the goal of providing better programs.

According to Mathis, the Student Union facility is a “challenged” one.

Some of those challenges are basic things such as accessing the Internet.

Mathis said during a five-day work week, she may have a problem getting online three of those days, if not all five.

To combat some of those challenges, she is chairing a Student Union Committee consisting of professors, administrators and students. The committee will meet to discuss the state of the union, and to present a report to the Dean of Students about what needs to be done.

Mathis would also like to see more space for students to hang out. She is working on securing a place for students to study, have meetings or just visit with friends.

In addition to that project, she is also working closely with the Campus Activity Board and Student Government Association to come up with fresh ideas for student events.

“It’s always a challenge coming up with something new and different,” Mathis said.

“We’re trying to bring programs you wouldn’t normally see on an HBCU campus.”

One of those programs was the hypnotist show during the Fall semester.

“There was a lot of anxiety and anticipation about whether it would work,” Mathis said.

But the office is not all about fun and games. Mathis said students can expect more lectures this semester from some big name people.

“We haven’t gotten anything nailed down yet, but we’re looking at Tavis Smiley, Maya Angelou, Sonia Sanchez and Common.”

They are also partnering with the Congressional Black Caucus to sponsor a home ownership program which will give graduating seniors and graduate students the opportunity to receive a $1,000 grant to help pay for their first home.

In February, the OSUA will be sponsoring an empowerment seminar on male and female interaction, and how each sex appreciates the other.

Mathis’ goal is to help students develop and hone their leadership skills, and enrich their personal development.

“A lot of learning will be occurring. When we’re an institution of higher learning, we need critical thinking, and intellectual things that will challenge us,” Mathis said.

Throughout her tenure here at FAMU, her efforts have not gone unnoticed by students.

“I think that the student union has great activities for students. It keeps them out of trouble, and keeps their time occupied,” said Amber Bradley, 22, a nursing student from Fort Lauderdale.

Senate President Ramon Alexander, who works directly with Mathis, described her as a student-oriented person that always gives of herself.

“She shows her commitment to student service through her empathetic leadership style,” Alexander said.

“She’s a true role model; what a university administrator should be about.”

Contact Sidney Wright IV at